London: The UK government is stepping up preparations for leaving the European Union without new trade arrangements in place on October 31, which one key adviser says will happen if the EU refuses to reopen negotiations.
“We still hope they will change their minds, but must operate on the assumption that they will not,” Michael Gove wrote in the Sunday Times newspaper. “No deal is now a very real prospect, and we must make sure we are ready.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson formed a war cabinet of six senior ministers to oversee revamped preparations. Gove will lead daily meetings — weekends included — of civil servants and advisers until ties with the EU are cut, the newspaper said.
Johnson’s most senior aide, Dominic Cummings, a key leader in the 2016 Brexit campaign, called advisers to the prime minister’s residence on Friday night and told them Brexit will happen “by any means necessary,” the Times said. Cummings said Johnson is prepared to suspend Parliament or hold an election to thwart those who may seek to block a no-deal Brexit.
The team of senior ministers are all Brexiteers who support no deal, the Times reported. It includes Gove, Chancellor Sajid Javid, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox.
However, Johnson’s Conservative Party doesn’t have a majority in Parliament and lawmakers have said they will try to block no deal. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said he’s ready for a general election at any time.
A new poll showed the Conservatives with a slim statistical lead over Labour, according to the Sunday Express. The July 24-25 ComRes survey is the first to show a Tory lead since early March and gives the Brexit Party its lowest projected vote share since they were included in the survey in May, ComRes said.
Another poll in the Mail on Sunday put support for the Conservatives at 30 per cent to 25 per cent for Labour, but support would flip to a 6 percentage-point edge for Labour if the party ousted Corbyn.
A majority in the Express poll, 55 per cent, said Johnson will make a terrible prime minister, with 64 per cent saying he would be better than Corbyn. But 72 per cent said he should be given a chance to deliver Brexit before new elections are called or the government is toppled.
Speaking to Sky News Sunday, Corbyn wouldn’t say when he might call a vote of no confidence in the government to trigger an election. If Labour were to win power, he reiterated that he’d try to reopen Brexit negotiations with the EU himself.
“He’s pretty hopeless,” said Jo Swinson, the newly elected head of the Liberal Democrats. “There are millions crying out for leadership in opposition to Boris Johnson and Brexit, and they’re not getting it from Jeremy Corbyn.”
As the new head of the Treasury, Javid said “all necessary funding” will be available help cope with no deal, including adding extra border control forces and launching one of the “biggest ever” public information campaigns, he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.
In a separate development, May’s former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, met with Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer and they agreed to work on plan to block leaving the EU without a deal, the Observer reported.
Starmer confirmed that Johnson’s rise to the nation’s top political office had “spurred more cross-party discussions at high levels involving senior Tories fired by Johnson.” Hammond quit his post before Johnson took office.